Thursday, November 12, 2015
This past month, I have done homes visits in many types of residences from small city apartments to large suburban homes. Whether the actual size, or having a room set up as a nursery or a child’s bedroom or involves safety issues – there are always questions.
What I look for size-wise:
While foster care and some states require a room be set up in advance for a child, I believe this reinforces feelings of not yet having a child. I do know families who when told they had to do so – set up a gender neutral room and then left the door closed until their child arrived. Seems like a waste of space and an emotional trap.
I do discuss where the child will live. A newborn often sleeps in a bassinet in their parents’ room until they sleep through the night. If that is the case, I want to see the space they will sleep in. If they, or an older child, will have their own room, I want to see that room, even if it is now a guest room, office or storage space and want to know what the plans are for that space.
I also want to know where all household members sleep and what space is used for what. If a young child will be moving to a “Big Kid” room and leave their room as a nursery for a new sibling, we talk about that transition.
I remember when I adopted – we had a separate bedroom filled with boxes. We were being considered by a birthmother and got a call from our agency – “We need photos of your home by tomorrow.” We had been to the local baby store to order a crib, changing table and other needed items, but hadn’t yet painted the room, as we planned on a bassinet in our bedroom for a month or two.
I called my husband and said “get 2 cans of white paint and come home”. He was there within the hour. We moved the boxes to one side of the room, took pictures of wet walls; moved the boxes to the painted side of the room and took pictures of the remaining, now wet wall. Photos in a FedEx envelop and off they went.
Long story short – we were approved and brought home our first daughter within a week. Needless to say, she lived in that room for years, until we moved to a larger apartment, with room for another child.
Other things I look for in the home:
Safety - Are there smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, a sprinkler system, fire extinguishers? Are there any firearms or weapons in the home? If so, where are they kept? Is there a need for window locks and door guards or stair gates? I also look at the outdoor space. If there is a pool or storage hut, we discuss safety proofing. If room to play and run, we discuss any planned fencing (not a requirement) or supervision when outdoors.
Pets – Their age, health and familiarity with children. I make some suggestions of how to prepare a pet for a baby or child. Place some items, like a baby blanket with the smell of baby powder or lotion. Get an infant or small child toy. Teach your pet not to touch them in preparation of your child’s arrival.
As a New Yorker, I understand that many people don’t move until they absolutely need to. Housing in New York City is expensive and often requires moving to a new less costly neighborhood. If there is a plan to move closer to relatives or a better school system, we will discuss that, as well.
Overall, there needs to be room for a child. The size of the home is not as important as the use of space. Some people put up dividing walls, repurpose an eating nook or L-shaped living room or build up, adding loft space. Some people just need to redecorate a spare room.
It is important to know what you will need to do to prepare your home. It is better for your and your child’s health and adjustment to do any painting, or major renovations before your child arrives. Even if you will not decorate the child’s room prior to their arrival, you can choose furniture, wall decorations, a layette and more – and have them delivered at a later date.
If you have a concern about your home size or readiness, ask the agency or social worker before the home visit. Do you need to set up the room? Do you need to remove small and fragile decorations? They will be able to tell you what you need to do for the home to meet state standards.
Lastly, I always tell adopting parents to prepare for the large amount of equipment, toys and paraphernalia babies and children require that will fill the home….for years to come.
Kathy Ann Brodsky, LCSW is a New York and New Jersey licensed social worker, adoptive mom and advocate for ethical adoption practice. She has prepared thousands of adoption homestudies, counseled adoptive parents and parents-to-be, and has trained professionals to work with adoptive families. She was Director of the Ametz Adoption Program from March 1992 to March 2015. She is Head Writer for Adoption.net, member of the Adoption Advisory Board of Path2Parenthood and has a private practice in New York City. She was a member of the Advisory Board for POV’s Adoption Series and named an “Angel in Adoption” by the Congressional Coalition on Adoption in 2001. Follow or reach her at ADOPTION MAVEN BLOG or EMAIL.